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Jakarta Post

Central Java rations processing of swab samples due to labs' limited capacity

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 23, 2020   /   07:43 pm
Central Java rations processing of swab samples due to labs' limited capacity A health worker performs a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on a bus driver at the Tegal bus station in Central Java on Dec. 17. (Antara/Oky Lukmansyah)

The Central Java administration has decided to ration the processing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) samples because of the limited capacity of its laboratories.

In the first two weeks of the month, samples piled up at several PCR laboratories in the province because some regions have no PCR laboratories and have been sending their samples to regions that do.

Central Java Health Agency head Yulianto Prabowo said the province’s PCR laboratories had a total maximum capacity of 13,000 samples.

“If we receive more, we will definitely have pileups,” said Yulianto on Tuesday as quoted by

Tegal and Brebes regencies as well as Tegal city, for example, have been relying on Central Java’s Semarang Health Laboratory Center to process their swab samples.

The Semarang lab center can process up to 2,000 samples per day. However, earlier in the month, the lab received 4,000 samples.

Therefore, said Yulianto, the agency decided to ration the samples’ delivery and prioritized samples from hospital patients and suspected patients. 

“We also prioritized members of the vulnerable group, including senior citizens, pregnant women and those with comorbidities. Samples from them will be given a special mark. If we do not ration, we face another pileup.”

Read also: Pandemic priority: Anything but testing

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Margono Soekarjo Regional General Hospital’s (RSUD) molecular biology laboratory in Purwokerto, Banyumas regency, has reportedly been overwhelmed with work, facing a pileup of some 5,000 samples. 

To deal with the situation, temporary limits were set on swab sample deliveries from Banyumas, Purbalingga, Wonosobo and Banjarnegara.

Wonosobo was among regions that had to limit its sample delivery down to 200 samples per day. Following the limitation, the Wonosobo Health Agency decided to temporarily stop COVID-19 PCR testing and tracing.

“We now have been focusing on following up with swab tests from [COVID-19] hospitals and quarantine facilities while trying to decrease the pileup in our freezer, which comprises about 500 samples,” Wonosobo Health Agency disease prevention and control head Jaelan Sulat said on Tuesday. 

“However, our delivery quota has now increased to 250 samples per day.”

Meanwhile, Rembang regency — which sends swab samples to the Semarang Health Laboratory Center; Nasional Diponegoro Hospital, also in Semarang; the Salatiga Disease Vector and Reservoir Center; and the Yogyakarta Health Environment Engineering and Disease Control Center — has also been told to limit sample deliveries. 

“Our delivery quota is 100 samples per day,” said Rembang COVID-19 task force spokesperson Arief Dwi Sulistya.

Despite the limitation, Yulianto claimed that testing capacity in Central Java had reached the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO). He went on to say that from the standard of testing one person out of 1,000, the province had to be able to perform 5,000 tests per day. Central Java’s testing capacity has reached 13,000 tests per day. (nkn)

Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.